Humanities and Sciences

Customized Studies

Among the May graduates from the School of Humanities and Sciences were 32 students who had designed their own majors through the Planned Studies Program, an option available since 1973. Students who choose planned studies majors work with faculty members from two or more departments to develop a program of study not normally offered at IC. Some students pursue areas of study, such as creative writing or arts administration, that are well-established academic disciplines and typically available as majors at larger institutions. Others design unique majors, such as telecommunications-industry administration or medical counseling and social work, that are emerging fields combining traditional disciplines. "Most plans draw principally upon courses offered in the school of H&S," says Hadley Smith, assistant professor of writing and coordinator of the Planned Studies Program, "but students may, with approval, draw on the curricula of the other four schools as well."

The Planned Studies Program was just the ticket for Scott Michels ’98, who created a program called arts in recreation: "I came to Ithaca with a lot of different ideas, and even more doors were opened in my first two years" he says. "Planned studies let me combine all those elements. I’m an individualist, and planned studies let me accentuate that quality. Potential employers and my friends are impressed that I could see what I wanted to get out of school and mold an academic program that would most benefit me."

As Michels’s comments indicate, the program attracts independent thinkers. Typical is Dan Gaibel ’98, who, when asked why he was dry on Fountain Day, replied, "Why should I jump in the fountain? Because everyone else is doing it? I’ve never done anything for that reason in my entire life."

Creating a major tailored to their own interests motivates some students to achieve academic excellence. Carly Fox ’98, who graduated cum laude and with honors in planned studies, explains, "Planned studies gave me the freedom to do what I wanted to do. My interests [in] Latin American studies . . . involved several separate departments: sociology, politics, and education. I was able to create my own requirements, which included travel [in Nicaragua] and an internship [in a Latino neighborhood in the South Bronx]. Because I made the plan, I was more invested in my studies and really challenged myself. I was excited every semester because I was pursuing the plan I had created." Fox’s contributions to fostering racial and ethnic diversity at IC were also recognized with the College’s La Fuerza Award.

The planned studies class of ’98 included several other academic superstars: magna cum laude graduate Jennifer R. Piazza and summa cum laude graduates Stacy Cohn, Jayson-Debora Hinderliter, and Kathryn Marks. Smith believes it’s no accident that planned studies students were at the top of this year’s graduating class: "The challenge of designing a major attracts some of the strongest students on campus, those who want the most out of their four years at Ithaca."

Piazza, who graduated with honors in both planned studies and psychology, received the C. P. Snow Award for integration of science and humanities, a Campus Life Award for her volunteer efforts, and several honors that recognized her academic achievement and undergraduate research in psychology. Her paper "Infant Responses to Reflections on a Visual Cliff Apparatus," coauthored with associate professor Nancy Rader, was named the outstanding presentation at the 1998 Eastern Colleges Science Conference at Niagara University.

Cohn, whose major was dance education and studio administration, graduated with honors in planned studies and received the Dean’s Award for the senior with the highest grade point average in the fine and performing arts. Her study included an internship at the Armstrong School of Dance, where she continues to teach. This year she was assistant choreographer for Into the Woods and assistant director of the Spring Dance Project, which featured a dance she conceived and choreographed.

Hinderliter designed a major in international communication. She spent a year in Germany, taking upper-level courses at universities in Berlin and interning at the East-West European Women’s Network. Her senior honors paper, "Building Bridges: A Historical Analysis of Women in Post-Unification Germany," grew out of data she collected in Germany. This spring Hinderliter was awarded a U.S. Student Fulbright Grant [see "Fulbright Grants," page 5].

Marks’s major, which she called exploration and expression of the individual, included courses in writing, religion, sociology, and anthropology. Her work in these classes was noteworthy: "I’ve heard from a number of professors how much Katie contributed to their classes," reports Smith. "She is the ideal student, with a keen mind and a deep interest in intellectual issues. We will miss her."


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Web pages created by Andrejs Ozolins. 19 Oct 1999